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New White Belts and Tiny Dogs
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New White Belts and Tiny Dogs

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Jiu Jitsu players have a lot in common with dogs.  In both cases, the more intimidating they appear, the friendlier they usually are.

My pup is a burly boxer mix.  Even though she’s on a leash, people give her a wide berth when I take her for walks through the neighborhood.  She just has that look. But she’s the sweetest dog I’ve ever met. In the mornings, after I get dressed, she blocks my way until she gets her morning hug.  A true monster!

We also have a brawny Rottweiler and a statuesque Great Dane in the neighborhood.  Both of them are big babies who only bark if I don’t pet them.

There are also a number of chihuahuas and other teeny-tiny dogs in the neighborhood.  Those are the ones I have to watch out for. They’re the ones who are likely to bite.

My personal experience with dogs has taught me that the big ones are confident enough in their ability to defend themselves that they welcome the chance to meet new people.  They’re big, lumbering, friendly, and fun.

 

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Small dogs respond to every new person as a threat.  It’s as though they realize just how small and vulnerable they are, so they double-down on aggression.

People aren’t much different.  At work, the person who is confident in herself is usually the better boss.  They don’t need to boost their own egos by tearing you down. They know that the success of the team is more important than their own success.  They let their employees take the spotlight, and they give credit freely to everyone else. They are the big dogs. But they aren’t the big dogs because they’re tough.  They’re the big dogs because they are secure about themselves.

The one who feels his own inadequacy will be a nightmare.  They’re the ones who are back-stabbing, paranoid, and toxic.  They don’t care about the success of the team as much as they care about their own status.  In fact, if given the choice, they’ll sacrifice team success for their own egos. Every. Single. Time.  To them, everything and everyone is a threat, so no matter what you do, they’re sizing you up as an adversary.  These people are chihuahuas in disguise. Puffing themselves up because they’re afraid.

In the dojo, we often see these same characteristics at work.  

Want to figure out who the friendliest person in the dojo is?  Look to the higher belts first. The big dogs. They don’t have anything to prove, so they don’t feel in competition with anyone.  They’ve been there long enough, so they know that their coach knows their abilities and intentions, so they’re not looking for opportunities to show off.  They’re willing to teach, and they’re willing to work on your level when rolling. Often, they’re happy to let you work on your technique, because their egos aren’t devastated by tapping to a newer student.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t any friendly white belts…because there are.  But white belts are more likely to act like those tiny dogs. It’s hard to let go of your ego, and even the best white belts still feel the pressures of their egos at times.  They keep score. They are overly-worried about rank and stripes and belt colors. They tend to view every roll as a life-or-death struggle. And they do it all to try to cover up their sense of vulnerability.  The motive for this behavior is understandable, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.

A selfish, ego-centric white belt is more likely to hurt his training partners.  (After all, he views them as competition, not teammates).  And he’s less likely to improve as quickly as he could.  After all, failure is the best teacher. If you’re more worried about sparing your ego than letting yourself fail, you miss all those valuable opportunities to learn from mistakes.  Just as with chihuahuas, their defensiveness robs them of a lot of opportunities.

Most Jiu Jiteros will naturally grow out of these tiny-dog behaviors as their skill sets grow and as they become more confident in themselves.  But, if you are a white belt, you can speed the whole process up by remembering that it’s really the small dogs that overcompensate for their vulnerability by trying to be vicious.

To become a big dog faster, you should work on letting go of those tiny-dog insecurities as soon as possible.  You’ll learn faster, you’ll make more friends, and you’ll have more fun.

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